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9 Tips to Optimize Your Return to the Office


Photo of paper coffee cup with welcome back sticky note
Image: blacksalmon -
This article originally appeared on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect
After scrambling to accommodate remote work, returning to the office can be more thoughtful and methodical. Now is the time to review lessons learned and plan for a work environment that will most likely change as a result of the pandemic. Staff will be coming back with new skills, and who knew that millions of people would learn to use remote collaboration tools all at once? Teams have learned the value, and challenges, of working remotely, but we must figure out how these changes will impact the organization as people make their office return.
Here are some areas to keep in mind:
1. Consider what went well, and what didn’t during the transition to remote work. What did you learn? Document lessons learned to avoid repeating mistakes when your employees return to the workplace.
2. Take time to create necessary documentation, especially for processes that were generated on the fly during the transition, such as configurations and workflows.
3. You probably have identified capabilities that have emerged as “must-have” tools going forward, but don’t forget about those that are no longer needed. Eliminate unused services and equipment. You might even save some money. Now is a good time to survey people and find out what they’re thinking.
4. Determine your status regarding your current contracts for services:
  • Are services still right-sized? Do you have excess capacity in some areas, while others are approaching their peak? For example, your local and long-distance calling minutes may have decreased as people moved to online meetings, so you may be able to cut back on those services. On the other hand, online meetings may have caused a significant increase in your Internet usage.
  • When do your contracts expire? Don’t let them renew automatically, and adjust if needed.
  • Are you satisfied with the provider or do you want to change?
5. Decide whether your current voice technology solutions are meeting your needs. Requirements changed significantly during the pandemic. What may have been comfortable before may not be the best fit moving forward.
6. Assess your collaboration tools. Are they meeting your needs and user expectations?
  • In addition to conferencing (audio and video) and screen sharing, do you need whiteboarding or persistent team collaboration spaces?
  • Is there one solution that will fit your organization, or do some areas need specialized tools?
7. Have new tools or processes created any training gaps? What training is needed by your support team and by your end users? Does your team have gaps in skills? Do you need more of this or less of that?
8. Do any back-end processes need to be developed or revised? Consider evaluating these areas:
  • Tools that employees utilize that require an on-site presence. For example, many timeclocks require an employee to be on-site to record their time in and out. Do these tools need to be modified or replaced to support remote workers in the future?
  • What policy determines which employees work remotely and how often?
  • Are any changes needed for employee evaluation standards?
  • What rules are different when participating in or managing remote teams?
  • Should you implement a “remote first” policy that assumes all meetings will have remote attendees? Developing this policy will require including conference information in all meeting invitations, and changing the way meetings are run to include remote attendees more fully.
9. Think about how your “old” environment will change once people are back on site. What will be different? Will you have two models (on-site and remote) to support going forward? What tools or technology do you need to simplify and make it seamless?
If you’re ready to get back to the office, The Back To Work Assessment worksheet I've put together makes it easy to assess these changes and new technologies. Use it to help walk you through this evaluation process.